I hesitate to write this.
Why, you ask? Because Malta is probably one of the best kept secrets in Europe . . . at least from the Americans. The truth is, the Europeans have been holding out on us. They’ve been visiting this lovely little island country for years while we stick to the hot spots like Paris, London, and Rome. Alas, my fellow travelers, and especially my fellow Americans, you are really missing out if you don’t visit Malta. While I don’t want this lovely place to ever be overrun with tourists, you have to know it’s out there, a perfect summer destination.
“What’s in Malta?”
This is probably the first question I get from Americans.
Malta is loaded with historical sites. You can find everything from prehistorical Neolithic monuments, underground temples to Roman ruins and medieval cities. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is hands down one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe and it is home to Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Interested in World War II? Malta held out on the side of the allies despite its small size and became the most bombed place on earth during the war.
The Maltese people received the George Cross for their heroism, and Roosevelt wrote of Malta, “In the name of the people of the United States of America, I salute the Island of Malta, its people and defenders, who, in the cause of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world, have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty. Under repeated fire from the skies, Malta stood alone, but unafraid in the center of the sea, one tiny bright flame in the darkness—a beacon of hope for the clearer days which have come. Malta's bright story of human fortitude and courage will be read by posterity with wonder and with gratitude through all the ages.”
Amazing and unforgivable that most Americans have forgotten this piece of history. But if history’s not your thing, Malta also has some lovely spots to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Lagoon is worth a day trip, and if you prefer a beachier atmosphere, Golden Sands is easy to get to.
“How do I get there from the States? Do I need a visa?”
There are regular flights to Malta out of most major European cities. It’s easy to extend an already booked European trip to include Malta. I’ve flown to Malta from Copenhagen, London, and Rome on discount airlines for under 100 Euro round trip depending on the season.
“I’m on a budget. Where do I stay?”
Sliema is right across the bay from Valletta, just a short water taxi ride away. Not only that, all the major tour companies leave from Sliema, and if you want to purchase a day trip or a ride on the hop-on-hop-off bus, just take a stroll down the waterfront. There will be lots of stalls eager to sell you tickets. Cozy rooms overlooking the water with a nice balcony can be as little as 40 Euro a night.
“How do you get around?”
Malta is a beginning travelers dream. There is a service from the airport that will take you to your hotel for a fixed fee and you can book with them in advance. The hop-on-hop-off buses will take you anywhere you want to go while on the island. You could spend a day on each route. Valletta is easy to access via water taxi from Sliema and Birgu. If all else fails, taxis are readily available. Once you get to a certain area, there are usually lots of places within walking distance.
“I don’t speak Maltese.”
Malta’s official languages are Maltese and English. You’ll be fine. And if not knowing a language is your excuse for not going somewhere, you are going to be extremely limited in your travels!
So now you know the secret. Shh! Don’t tell. We’ll keep this beautiful destination just to ourselves, right?